Giro D'Italia 2018: Stage 3 - Be'er Sheva to Eiltat (229 kms)

I'll be honest, I'm not used to this stages as long as 229k in modern day Grand Tours. This is almost spring classics territory.
On the flipside, such a long stage means that "B" sprinters wouldn't be play, only the elites who can hold their own at the end of 229k would play the game at the end.

And being the last day in Israel, Israel Cycling Academy had extra-impetus to be in the break and get more TV time.

And stage was largely flat, passing a desert, which would mean a lot of wind and a lot of flats given the dust.

Rohan Dennis(BMC) started the day in Maglia Rosa (this is more pink, right?). Elia Vivani(QuickStep Floors) was in the Ciclamino Jersey and Maximilian Schachmann (QuickStep Floors) was in the White jersey (best young riders).

Within the 1st 4k, there was the 1st breakaway (spoiler: they stuck it out for a long part of the day) including yesterday's breakaway hero Guillaume Bovin(Israel Cycling Academy), KOM points leader Enrico Bardin (Bardiani-CSF) & Marco Frapporti (Andrico-Giocattoli). The peloton took it easy, and within 10k, they breakaway was up 5:30!

Given that if the breakaway went away too much, Rohan Dennis would lose his lead, BMC picked up the pace. With 183k to go , there was the 1st Intermediate sprint, and with 3,2 and 1 second time bonuses on offer, the 3 men did a mini-sprint. Boivin took it, Frapporti was 2nd and Bardin was 3rd.
Meanwhile, 5 minutes back, Viviani took the sprint amongst the peloton, taking 8 points and strengthening his lead in the points classification.

With 172k to go, the break's lead was down to 4 minutes.

This is getting boring, right?

Well, that's how these early stages are. Few men at the front, from small teams, getting more airtime for their sponsors. Big men, at the back, trying to get through safely before the battle starts in the mountains.

What isn't boring is the advertisements!

Whether it is Peter Sagan, trying to cook on Bora's cooking range, or Team Sunweb's riders faking smiles on snowy rides while the camera pans to people having fun on beaches, it is very amusing to see the riders acting out their parts as their sponsors want.

One advertisement and well, 1 man who caught my eye, was Marcel Kittel.

I mean, the hair game is strong with this one. And till last year, he was riding for QuickStep Floors, which even though is one of the best teams in the world, wasn't a good fit in terms of a sponsor.

I mean, with hair like that, would you advertise flooring? No!

You would advertise Shampoos! And hair products! Including something as ludicrous as Caffeine Shampoo!  Why do you need Caffeine in your shampoo? So that you can stay awake while taking a bath? C'mon.

But if a guy like Kittel advertises it, even i would like to try that. I like long hair, and if caffeine can do that to my hair, then so be it. Plus, if I run out of coffee, I'll have a substitute. "Just 2 minutes a day gives your hair more power" says Kittel. Let's see.

Anyways, coming back to the race through a bloody desert, there was nothing much happening.

2nd intermediate sprint came with 148k to go, and Boivin took it again, gaining 3 more bonus seconds. Viviani again took the sprint in the peloton, gaining 6 more points.

With 102k to go, the only climb of the day approached. Being in the breakaway for over 100k, worked out well for Barbin. Even though Frapporti was the 1st to reach the summit, taking 3 points, Barbin took 2nd and 2 points. With 5 points in his kitty, he safely will wear the KOM jersey at the end of the day.

With 80k to go, scenes became incredible as they began to descend through the desert.

2 more interesting things happened: 1.) There was a slew of flat tires; atleast 10 in 10 minutes, making it over 30 flats, which was quite understandable. I mean, with the grit and sand on the road and the pace of the peloton, things like that were bound to happen. 2.) A bunch of girls flashed the riders, and it was captured on live TV! Some excitement and incentive to watch stages like this!

The gap came down to under a minute with 57k to go. Viviani had a flat, got a fix and then quickly descended drafting behind different team cars and bikes. And then another funny incident: A policeman almost ran into the breakaway, getting a stare down by Frapporti.

The peloton again eased a bit with 40k to go, and then regrouped and began pushing with 30k to go. The break had a minute's lead with 30k to go. Like yesterday, there were some technical sections in the final 6k (11 roundabouts to be precise!). So, positioning was key for the bigger teams. The breakaway continued to push, having ridden more than 200k in the front, they looked visibly tired.

With 7.6k to go, the gap was down to 13". The Peloton was going all out, travelling at 70+ kmph. I would be remiss if I don't put the picture of the brave men, who were riding out in the front for 218k.

Barbin dropped back at 7k, to finish safely and keep his jersey. A few kilometers later, they were all together. And then the race became exciting again, Zdenek Stybar led the train for QuickStep Floors, followed by Schachmann. My palms began to get sweaty at every single roundabout, as a crash seemed almost palpable, given the approach speed and bumps on the road.

But QuickStep, who have racked up 28 wins so far this season, did an amazing job of leading out Viviani. Bora Hansgrohe too brought up Sam Bennett as the peloton approached the Flamé Rouge.
Viviani sat comfortably in the 10th place as they approached the final right hander with 500 meters to go.

And then began the sprint. A lot of weaving happened, but Elia Vivani displayed amazing bike control and handling, almost being pushed into the barriers by Bennet, 100 meters from the finish.

But Viviani simply, flicked his elbow and calmly sprinted away, taking his 2nd stage win in 2 days!
Gotta say, QuickStep is an incredible team, accruing its 29th win of the season through some incredible teamwork and then the brilliant sprint by Viviani.

With this win, Viviani took 50 more points in the points classification and strengthened his lead.
While Rohan Dennis, remained safely in the lead.

And that was that. Israel over, the peloton takes a rest day tomorrow, flies to Italy and from Tuesday, the fun begins in Italy!!

Thank you for reading!


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